Reimagining Major League Baseball – Take 2

A while back I wrote a lengthy post about my idea to realign Major League Baseball along geographical lines.  My idea was to group teams in a way that made sense based solely on their physical location (ie both New York teams in the same division).

Shortly after that, Stephe and I started talking about how it might also be interesting (and probably funnier) to realign along fiscal lines.  Think about it.  What drives the game these days?  Is it fan loyalty?  No.  Its dollars.  Salaries continue to escalate in a handful of markets while others suffer as they try to remain competitive.

Tattooed Comeback Kid - Josh Hamilton
 
Free agency essentially killed the idea of “the team.”  Its gotten much easier to go out and overspend to fill a need than to grow a team using the farm system (again I’m looking at both New York teams).

To paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld, at some point we’re just cheering for the uniforms.

Since we’re past the half way mark in the 2008 baseball season, I thought I’d see if I could flesh out this idea a bit and see what the results would be.

First, there are a few rules.  The alignment is based on a list of 2008 salaries I found on about.com.  I don’t swear to their accuracy, but based on the list, they look pretty close to right.  Secondly, in this reimagining, we won’t be contracting any teams.  All 30 teams get to stay in MLB.  They will be divided into 6 divisions with 5 teams in each division.

Now, for the purposes of this exercise, I’m doing away with leagues.  They’re unnecessary.  No more American League.  No more National League.  Just MLB.  In our newly minted MLB, will send eight teams to the playoffs each year.  They will be the 6 division winners and two wild cards.  The wild cards will be the two non-division winners with the best regular season records.  Simple as that.

Next, our new divisions won’t carry geographical designations anymore.  No, we’ve decided to give them historical context.  Five will be named for members of the first class of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.  They will be the Ruth, Johnson, Wagner, Matthewson and Cobb. 

1936 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame 

The sixth division will be the Boras division.

Scott Boras - Super Agent or Satan's Minion?

The Boras division will be home to the 5 teams with the lowest payroll.  We figure that Scott Boras will somehow manage to get a piece of the action so we went ahead and put his name on the box score.

He’s the real kicker.  This is the part that’s going to set people off.

We’ll realign each year based on payroll.  A drop dead date will be announced and when that date comes, salaries will be totalled and the new alignments announced.  This will keep our fiscal parity intact from season to season.  Imagine if, say, the White Sox decided to begin a major rebuilding project from within.  They jettison pricey established talent to use touted farm hands.  They could move down 1 or 2 divisions.  At the same time, the Royals decide to sign some big free agents in an attempt to return to their glory days.  They could find themselves moving up a division and facing more similarly funded teams.

In this scenario, money talks kids.  Simple as that.

So, based on 2008 opening day salaries, from highest to lowest, here are the new divisions under this new alignment system…

RUTH DIVISION

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. New York Mets
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Chicago Whitesox

JOHNSON DIVISION

  1. Los Angeles Angels
  2. Chicago Cubs
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers
  4. Seattle Mariners
  5. Atlanta Braves

WAGNER DIVISION

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Toronto Blue Jays
  3. Philadelphia Phillies
  4. Houston Astros
  5. Milwaukee Brewers

MATTHEWSON DIVISION

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. San Diego Padres
  5. Colorado Rockies

COBB DIVISION

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Baltimore Orioles
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. Minnesota Twins
  5. Kansas City Royals

BORAS DIVISION

  1. Washington Nationals
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates
  3. Oakland A’s
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Florida Marlins

Soak those in for a moment.  You see what we’re doing here, right?  Under this plan at least one of thoses “small market” (ie low salary) teams is going to make the playoffs each year.  This gives 5 teams something to root for each year.

It also gives owners options.  They can continue to escalate salary and they be forced to vie with similar “big market” (ie high salary) teams, or they can build from within and grow their team the old fashioned way.

No team will change divisions during the season, despite salary dumps.  Once you’re in, you’re in.

And, given the current scheduling method used by MLB, games played are weighted toward more games between divisional rivals.  This new alignment system will give that even more weight.  Is that new hitter you signed worth the millions you spent?  Can your free agent pitcher really earn every cent of the contract you signed him to?  Divisional play will let us know.

So, using this system, where would we be right now?  Well, when I did the research last week (7/28/08), the divisional races would break down like this…

RUTH DIVISION

  1. Boston (61-46)
  2. Chicago (59-45)
  3. Yankees (58-47)
  4. Mets (57-49)
  5. Detroit (53-52)

JOHNSON DIVISION

  1. Angels (65-40)
  2. Cubs (62-44)
  3. Dodgers (52-53)
  4. Atlanta (49-56)
  5. Seattle (40-65)

WAGNER DIVISION

  1. Milwaukee (60-46)
  2. St. Louis (59-49)
  3. Philadelphia (56-49)
  4. Toronto (54-52)
  5. Houston (49-56)

MATTHEWSON DIVISION

  1. Cincinnati (50-57)
  2. Colorado (48-59)
  3. Cleveland (46-58 )
  4. San Francisco (44-61)
  5. San Diego (42-65)

COBB DIVISION

  1. Minnesota (58-47)
  2. Texas (54-52)
  3. Arizona (53-52)
  4. Baltimore (50-55)
  5. Kansas City (48-59)

BORAS DIVISION

  1. Tampa Bay (61-44)
  2. Florida (56-60)
  3. Oakland (53-52)
  4. Pittsburgh (49-57)
  5. Washington (38-67)

So even in our worst division, Matthewson, the teams are competitive within the division.  In fact, there are only a few teams who are completely out of their divisional race.

If the season ended today under this set-up, your playoff teams would be:  Boston, Los Angeles Angels, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Minnesota and Tampa Bay.  The wild card teams would be the Cubs and White Sox.  So we get the West Coast and Chicago involved.  We energize the fan bases in Tampa and Milwaukee.  And the fans in Cincinnati have vision of Big Red Machines gone by.  How is that bad?

It should be noted that in doing the research for this piece I discovered that Alex Rodriguez makes more money in a single season than the entire Florida Marlins team.  In addition, removing ARod from the Yankees doesn’t affect their status as the most expensive team in baseball.  Therefore, as a caveat to all that has gone before, I propose that should the Marlins not get their collective salaries above that of Arod, then starting next year, the Marlins should be disbanded and ARod should take their place in the Boras Division.  If he’s worth that much money, he should be able to play by himself…right?

Alex Rodriguez - Worth every penny?

There you have it, baseball for the early 21st century where the dollar is king and tradition is in short supply.

Let me know what you think.  It won’t change my mind, but I am interested.

4 thoughts on “Reimagining Major League Baseball – Take 2

Add yours

  1. Great thoughts! I really like your ideas and think that this would be a great model for Major League Baseball. I would also be interested to see a break down of teams that promote from within and those that hire or trade externally. Do you happen to know if there is information that breaks down MLB teams that way?

    Thanks
    RG

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